by Kathleen Costa
This week we have a review of the latest Maid Ivy Cozy Mystery by Hazel Smith along with an interview with Hazel. Details at the end of this post on how to enter to win an ebook copy of the book, and a link to purchase it from Amazon.
Deadly Diva: A Maid Ivy Cozy Mystery By Hazel Smith
Twenty-nine-year-old Ivy Stone was raised by her Gramma Isabel after the death of her parents at a very young age, and for several years, worked closely with her in a successful maid service business in the U.S. After her grandmother passed away, Ivy put into action her final words to follow her dream by moving to England, and after completing her training, accepting employment at one of London’s most prestigious hotels, the Hotel LaFontaine. Of course, it is challenging work, meeting expectations and making new friends, but due to an unfortunate case of murder and subsequent success uncovering the murderer, Ivy’s life has turned around. She made good friends from Élise Auclair in concierge and Moira Murphy in the kitchen to owner Sir Maximillian Hardy Humphrey and Inspector Clayburn; she also has Monty, her Great Dane puppy, as a cuddly roommate. She has plans for the future, too, with rumors of the head housekeeper Mrs. Becker’s retirement, she hopes to be a serious contender as her replacement … if only she can survive Mrs. “B.” scrutinizing her every move.
Deadly Diva Earns 5/5 Tabloid Scandals … Clever, Exciting Cozy Gem!
“I’m just a maid who happened to be in the wrong place at the wrong time.” —Ivy Stone, Deadly Dive
An inherent perk of the job as a hotel maid is the opportunity to overhear private conversations among the guests, and with Hollywood power couple, now, bitter divorce rivals, gossip is a hot commodity. Aspen Hoar, dubbed “The Asp,” is furious her ex-husband Jackson Day is staying at the same hotel and demands he be sent to another hotel. She informs Mr. Humphrey, the owner, of the restraining order she has against him, which, in Ivy’s recollection, is really a restraining order against Aspen by Jackson. Her efforts to force management to relocate him, including having her lawyer Harper Wilson plead her case, are for naught. Mr. Humphrey informed the pair that Mr. Day had reserved his suite months before Ms. Hoar, and the hotel had informed her assistant, Darcy James, of a possible conflict. The whole situation is awkward with a capital “A,” which is made more difficult by the tons of journalists and paparazzi roaming the hotel to capture anything of Aspen, Jackson, or other celebrities in town for the Reel & Rare Acting Awards Ceremony. Just another day at Hotel LaFontaine.
Aspen’s half-sister Aisling has planned a themed party for their Aunt Agatha’s eightieth birthday. Aunt Aggie, named for the iconic author, ran a mystery theater decades before, so Aisling thought it a fun idea to invited a few people to the suite for a murder mystery evening based on Christie’s A Murder is Announced. At the stroke of five o’clock, Ivy was warned, the excitement would begin. 5 … Aisling is surprised when Aspen crashes the party. 4… Aspen demands to see her lout of an ex she was told by text would be there. 3 … A hooded figure appears in the bedroom doorway holding a gun. 2 … The lights go out and shots ring out. 1 … The lights return and Jackson Day stands before the guests as the hooded figure. 0 … Jackson drops dead with blood pooling on his shirt. Of course, it’s all theater, until Aspen stumbles, bloodied, collapsing dead. So, there really is a murder to solve!
And the Winner is …! Hazel Smith … she has penned a “bang” of a mystery for the second book in her Maid Ivy Cozy Mystery series with a contentious Hollywood couple, iconic literary reference, karmic murder victim, and plenty of red herrings and dead ends to muddy up the investigation. The crime is quite clever with a challenging how, compelling whys, and a delightful Agatha Christie twist, and although greed, jealousy, and rivalries play a part, there’s more … tabloid headlines more! Ivy is a strong and clever lead with an attention to detail that is essential in a maid if not imperative in a detective. She’s proven herself a nuisance to the hotel head of security, but in contrast, she’s proven herself a valuable on-site asset to Inspector Clayburn. Her team of friends offer effective support and pretty much cover all avenues of the hotel from the kitchen and wait staff to the concierge and management to the housekeeping and maintenance giving Ivy easy access to all the rooms. This means lots of clues, overheard details, and some perilous predicaments all come about in a realistic manner. Romance may have a bit of an intriguing upstairs/downstairs element with the owner Mr. Humphrey taking more than a casual interest in employee/maid Ivy. Her friends give a “wink, wink, nod, nod” to the situation, but I find that adding the detective makes for a nice romantic triangle. I am definitely a fan of London, hotels, and Ivy!
Recipes, too! Hazel Smith also provides two easy to-follow recipes for an added treat: Butter Chicken Curry and Homemade Hot Chocolate! Yum!
A Maid Ivy Cozy Mystery
Twisted Wedding (2022) is a story available as a FREE gift HERE to those reader subscribing to Hazel Smith’s newsletter.
Ivy is off to a private Scottish isle to help out at a lavish wedding, but when a bride plunges to her death, Ivy can’t help but snoop around. She finds herself “dodging flirtation, sampling delicious dishes, and falling in love with Monty the pup,” but while snooping, she discovers some secrets are worth murderous intent. Earns 5/5 Scottish Ballads!
Mystery Maid (2022) KRL Review HERE Earns 5/5 Snarky Models!
Deadly Diva (2022)
Be a Big Fan of Hazel Smith!
Author Guest Post in KRL
“Hazel Smith is the pen name for an introverted homeschool mom who lives in small-town in Canada. Faith, family and food bring joy, hope and occasional drama to her life. In between taking care of her family & home, her free time is spent creating cozy mysteries on the porch with her laptop or in her favorite wingback chair whilst nursing the baby and typing with one finger.”
Facebook—Deliciously Addictive Cozy Mystery Community
Facebook: Hazel Smith Cozy Mystery Books
Website: Hazel Smith Cozy Mystery Books
Our Guest…Hazel Smith
Author of A Maid Ivy Cozy Mystery series
Kings River Life: I am excited to introduce Hazel Smith, author of a delightful cozy series, A Maid Ivy Cozy Mystery. The second book in the series was recently released and having become a favorite of mine, I hoped to get a bit of insights from the author about herself, her book, her characters, and the future.
Welcome! Can you give us a mini-biography of yourself? Who you are and what influenced you to become a writer?
Hazel Smith: Thanks for interviewing me! This will be so fun. Behind my pen name Hazel Smith, I’m a Christian Canadian homeschooling mom of 11 (yes, eleven birthed children). I’m a happy, nerdy introvert who loves being at home, cooking, eating, learning, and laughing at hilarious memes.
Many things have led me to this point. I’ve always been a book worm and love stories in all its forms – from puppet plays and children’s picture books to musical theatre and epic cinema. Homeschooling gave me the opportunity to read hundreds of great books (and a few terrible ones) and learn alongside my children what makes a great story technically and artistically. When the idea came to create an income stream from writing fiction, I knew cozy mystery was where I would begin. It was scary at first wondering ‘can I really do this’, but with learning, determination and support I’m actually doing it!
KRL: I love cozies, and your books do satiate my interest. What is it about cozies that got you interested in writing them?
Hazel: Oh, you. [blushes] Looking back, I see the seeds of cozy mystery were planted early. I received the entire yellow hardcover set of Nancy Drew books for Christmas around age eight years old and binged read the series. I loved everything about them: her big heart and care for her friends, the light romance with Ned Nickerson, her relationship with her awesome dad and housekeeper, her cool convertible car and classy fashion sense. I kind of hated it when they modernized her look in paperbacks years later. I loved the 1940-1950 classic feel of wholesome small town riddled with intrigue and a smart dignified beautiful lady helping set wrongs right.
KRL: it seems a unique idea to have the story orbiting around a young woman hired as a maid at an historic hotel in London, England. Can you give us some background or insights into this series and how it got started? Do you have experience with such domestic employment or better yet a connection to London? What is the future of the series … book three?
Hazel: I needed to know there was a current market for cozy mysteries so I researched on Amazon and took notes of the recurring non-paranormal elements to see what readers clearly enjoyed. Some must haves I found: a flawed but lovable main female character who stumbles upon her amateur sleuth skills, a band of merry friends, sweet side kick pets, multiple suspects, fun crafts, delicious food, etc. These are in all my books as the core ingredients to make a deliciously addictive cozy mystery book.
The setting was often a tight knit community like a small town or cruise ship. I thought a posh hotel could provide a modern ‘revolving setting’ like a cruise ship where there was small town familiarity with plot variety via the different guests. It also had the blend of European glamour with a down to earth set of characters amongst the staff and of course, dear Ivy, the wholesome American starting a-fresh in her dream job in a sumptuous historic London hotel.
Fun fact: I do have insider knowledge into the hotel world as I worked in a ski-town hotel in my twenties. I love working those little details into Ivy’s day as she stumbles upon clues and puzzles things in her constantly whirring mind. It’s been over twenty years but I remember well loading my cleaning cart, hauling wet towels from tubs, arranging the little soaps & bottles, and of course, walking into sometimes crazy rooms after the guests were partying hard the night before. My favorite tiny maid detail I put in Book 2: folding the ripped end of the toilet paper into a perfect sharp triangle! I laugh imagining glamourous guests using ‘the loo’ as it’s called in Britain and finding fancy triple ply TP!
As for a London connection: I married into a British family and as a Canadian have a mild obsession with the Royal family as a member of the Commonwealth. I’ve only been to London once for a weekend when I only had one wee baby so most of my research is thanks to Google.
Ivy’s giant lovable dog Monty is a carbon copy (see photo) of our family dog Alexander the Great…Dane. Xander for short. I have first-hand knowledge of all his idiosyncrasies including sleeping twenty hours a day, leaning into my legs so hard I have to brace myself, and being a formidable sight for any potential baddies to behold.
Future plans: I have at least seven books planned for the Maid Ivy Cozy Mystery series with sub-plots and character development that I’m weaving through all the books. Each book can be read as a stand-alone in any order, however there are some things woven through the books that, if you’ve read them all to date, will particularly appreciate. I don’t want to give any spoilers, but there will be some significant developments for dear Ivy in Book 3 when a staff member is framed and someone else starts acting very strangely. I’m super stoked to share this next one as I’ve been setting things up to pay them off. Coming this spring!
KRL: The characters you’ve created vary in personalities, manner, and age making them seem like neighbors, family, and friends, and Ivy is quite a determined young woman and moving to England was a brave decision. Can we find you in Ivy or any one of your other characters? Did you write your characters by taking from real-life people, “changing the names to…,” you get my drift?
Hazel: I’ve heard that many fiction writers do end up putting pieces of themselves into their characters. Ivy is someone I could have been in another life had I not married my high-school sweetheart, both became Christians at twenty-one (plot twist!), then began building a life and family together.
Ivy is like me with her love of family, food, and faith. She is also compulsively organized, a friendly introvert, deeply loyal, curious to a fault, and occasionally oblivious (like when Mr. Humphrey, the rich handsome hotel owner with a heart of gold, fixes a long gaze upon her).
Ivy’s friends and foes are entirely fictional. Though I did have to insert a line in the front matter about ‘pure coincidence’ since the celebrity couple in Deadly Diva may or may not be inspired by actual Hollywood celebrities.
I’ve never told anyone this before. Ivy’s adoptive grandmother, who powerfully influenced the woman she is today, is the grandparent I wish I’d had. Creating Isabel Stone with her inspirational kindness, faith, and diligence has brought me to tears more than a few times as I work on my laptop.
When Ivy has key moments recalling things her grandmother said to her, it touches my heart in a healing way. Those are the wise words of courage, faith, and love I wish had been said to me.
KRL: There are several cozy authors that have ventured into writing more edgy thrillers with more intense themes. Have you entertained the idea of writing in another genre? If cozies are your speciality, do you have any future plans for another series? Can we get a sneak peek?
Hazel: I may try out an entirely different genre in the future under a different pen name. After I complete the seven Maid Ivy books I have planned, I’ll factor in all the metrics and see if enough readers want me to keep dishing up more delightful whodunnits. I have some spin off ideas perking in my brain that could be explored.
As for a totally difference book category, I prefer to watch edgy thrillers than read them. The brutal grisly stuff gives me nightmares if I spend too much time with my head in that space. I could see myself dabbling into some clean romance. As long as it’s not too cheesy. My oldest child will tell me if it’s too dumb. She might even join the writing foray as she’s been very inspired watching this mom of many do something as fun and challenging as self-publishing. So, we shall see.
KRL: Ok, here’s something fun, Hazel…Rapid Fire!
Ready! Set! Go!
Coffee or Tea? Coffee with a dash of cream. My French press has a permanent place on my otherwise very tidy countertop.
Dog or Cat? Cat. 100% Even though I inserted our lovable family Great Dane to be Ivy’s sidekick! LOL
Carnivore or Herbivore? Omnivore. Sorry (there’s my Canadian coming through).
Pie or Cake? Salted Caramel Cheesecake. My mouth is watering just thinking of it. I should put one in the next book. Recipes included!
Picnic or 5-star Restaurant? Are the kids included? I have toddlers to teens so picnic for them = easy clean up. But if it’s just me and my honey then 5 stars all the way!
Print/eBook or Audio version? Print. It’s a homeschoolers curse: not enough bookshelves.
Theater or Wait for the DVD? I see maybe two movies a year. They have to be good for me to leave the house. I only went to see Dune & Maverick last year. Loved them both.
Favorite Actor? I have such a crush on Pierce Bronsnan. Especially his Irish accent.
Favorite Actress? Cate Blanchett is right up there. She’s the OG Galadriel for me.
Dirty Martini or Pina Colada? If you like Pina Coladas, getting caught in the rain..
Beachfront Property or Cabin in the Woods? Beachfront minus hurricanes.
Active or Cuddling in a Comfy Chair? Chair + Cat + Coffee = Joy
Finish these sentences:
If I could meet anyone in the world, past or present, it would be … next to Jesus obviously..oh wow, I have some unexpected tears welling up here. I’d meet the baby I lost ten years ago.
If I were stranded on an island, the three things I would make sure I had are … I’m having flashbacks of Castaway. Since wifi and my phone with endless power are out of the equation then I’ll have my bible, a knife, and a net. A girls gotta have food for body & soul!
If I had one wish, it would be … calories over my BMR don’t count on the weekend! They magically don’t store as fat but rather evaporate or turn into glitter sparkles.
KRL: You’ve shared a bit of yourself here, but is there something people would be surprised to know about you? Any guilty pleasures?
Hazel: I didn’t mind two years of not having to see many people. I minded a lot of other things during that slog, but not dropping my social life for two years. That was easy. So yeah, when people cancel plans I’m actually mildly relieved. Ok, a lot relieved.
KRL: This has been great connecting with you. We’ve covered so many topics and had some fun, too. Is there anything else you would like to share with our readers?
Hazel: Thank you so much for this fun and sometimes tender chat! A special thank you to all who read all the way to the end here. For you I will share a riddle that my ten-year old son found yesterday: Everyone can say it, but no one understands it. Feel free to email me your answer email@example.com! I love connecting with readers and sharing light fun stuff in my Facebook group Deliciously Addictive Cozy Mystery Community so pop on by there if you like.
Thank you, Hazel, for joining us and sharing a little about yourself and your books.
To enter to win an ebook copy of Deadly Diva, simply email KRL at krlcontests@gmail[dot]com by replacing the [dot] with a period, and with the subject line “diva,” or comment on this article. A winner will be chosen February 11, 2023. U.S. residents only, and you must be 18 or older to enter. You can read our privacy statement here if you like.
Check out other mystery articles, reviews, book giveaways & mystery short stories in our mystery section. And join our mystery Facebook group to keep up with everything mystery we post, and have a chance at some extra giveaways. Also listen to our new mystery podcast where mystery short stories and first chapters are read by actors! They are also available on Apple Podcasts, Google Play, and Spotify. A new episode goes up next week.
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Sounds interesting! Count me in!
I prefer print over ebooks as well. I’m on the hunr for a bookcase this week – it is the curse of a print reader! aprilbluetx at yahoo dot com
We have a winner!